The Three Most Important Questions Heading Into the Season for the UMD Men’s Hockey Team

The Bulldogs kick off their season next Wednesday against Denver in the NCHC pod in Omaha.

DULUTH, Minn. – The UMD men’s hockey team are less than a week away from the start of their season. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the top three questions heading into this upcoming season.

The #1 question has probably been the most commonly asked since the abrupt end to last season: who will replace Hunter Shepard at goalie? Maybe the better question is “how do you replace a guy who played in a Division I-record 115 straight games?” Right now, the Bulldogs have a trio of candidates: junior Ben Patt, sophomore Ryan Fanti and freshman Zach Stejskal. But all three have not had any experience at the Division I level.

“It’s something that we’re evaluating weekly. And talking with [goalies coach] Brant [Nicklin] too, who is out working with them and getting insight there. But who knows? They might all get a chance in the bubble. I don’t know. We’re going to make a decision on Wednesday to go with somebody and it could be different the next game,” said head coach Scott Sandelin.

Questions #2 deals with more big shoes to fill: what will the offense look like without Hobey Baker winner Scott Perunovich? The Hibbing native took his talents to the pros after last season. But team captain Noah Cates doesn’t anticipate any changes to the team’s identity.

“Obviously I don’t think many of them can do what Scotty did with rushing up. But if we kind of just quick up pucks, get the puck up the ice to our forwards and kind of get in the o-zone, we can kind of generate that offense, like I said, from different points of attack. It’ll be a little bit different, but I think out d-core can kind of pick up where he was and be just fine where we are,” Cates said.

And question #3: what will the season look like after the Bulldogs leave the pod? The NCHC says teams will be able to host games at their home rinks in 2021, but those plans could be changed, just like they have for several teams across the country.

“We all want to win but I think our guys have a better appreciation because they see what’s going on that ‘hey we’re getting an opportunity to do something we love to do’ so that’s kind of how I think we all need to approach it because we don’t know when it’s going to end and hopefully it’s going to end in April with a national tournament,” said Sandelin.

The Bulldogs kick off their season next Wednesday against Denver in the NCHC pod in Omaha.

Categories: College, Sports, University of Minnesota – Duluth